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Professor Jimmy Wilson Presents to Western Civilization Students

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Morphogenesis of Pensacola, Florida was the topic that students learned about during the Western Civilization Series Tuesday January 12. Professor Wilson told students that the changes to the city plan of that city could give scholars and insight into the larger issues that were taking place within Western Civilization during the early 1800s.

Initially a Spanish settlement in Florida, Pensacola was controlled in turn, by the British, the Spanish again, and finally the United States. Each power faced the challenge of urban planning, and one of the sticky issues that confronted these efforts was the placement of the fort in the middle of the town, which caused problems for rationalizing the city layout. Because of the upheavals of the Napoleonic Wars, Pensacola finally gained the autonomy necessary to do something about this issue when the Cadiz Cortez passed a law giving local control to cities and towns throughout the Spanish Empire. However, rather than embrace the new currents inspired by the Enlightenment that were sweeping through the empire, the planners of Pensacola turned their eyes back to the Law of the Indies, created in the 1500s. This seemed to fit their needs more effectively and also possibly demonstrated conservative resistance to the puppet government in Cadiz set up after France took control of the nation.

The talk, based on Wilson's Dissertation research demonstrated to students that international upheavals could have important consequences on even prosaic matters such as the layout of a relatively minor town thousands of miles distant from the center of events.